North Korea: Energy Security - Progress via Energy Aid?
almost empty streets at 5pm in Pyongyang in 2002
BBC News reported last month that South Korea has offered 2,000MW (2 Gigawatts) of free electricity to North Korea as an incentive to end its nuclear ambitions.
Seoul is proposing to lay power lines across the Korean border, as an alternative to a US-brokered nuclear power deal which collapsed in 2002.
Seoul is worried that if the North were to collapse, it could be flooded with millions of hungry North Korean refugees.
South Korea is one of the largest single donors of aid to the secretive communist state. It is the South's biggest donation to the North since 2000.
The UN World Food Programme is currently feeding some 6.5m North Koreans - nearly a third of the population.
The offer came as diplomats prepared to resume six-nation talks on the North's nuclear programme.
South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young told a news conference that the power proposal would supply the same amount of electricity that the North would have received if two light-water reactors being built by an international consortium in the 1990s had been completed.
That deal, known as the Agreed Framework, collapsed after Pyongyang allegedly admitted to the US in 2002 that it had a secret, enriched uranium programme.
The proposed power lines would provide the North with 2m kilowatts of electricity a year from South Korea's own power grid, and would be ready by 2008.
The power being offered is equivalent to the output of two large power stations and would help towards redressing North Korea's serious energy shortage.
The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says the South Korean government has since seized the initiative, fearing that the confrontation between Pyongyang and Washington could escalate.
This may set an interesting precedent for other states with nuclear ambitions for power stations, if not nuclear weapons. Security of energy supply seems set to be an increasing area of conflict between nations although it doesn't have to be. There is an opportunity for the more technologically advanced nations to speed the transfer of the latest and cleanest power generation technology to developing nations and to cooperate in the development and utilisation of clean renewable energy.